Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"A mouse with lioness's voice"

A: Becoming Naomi Leon
B: Ryan, Pam Munoz
D: Scholastic 2004
E: Multicultural Novel, Realistic Fiction
F: 4-6
G: Naomi Leon and her brother Owen live with their great-grandmother because their mother left them to “find her life.” They live in southern California in a trailer. They have their normal lives interrupted one day when their mother shows up on their doorstep. She says she has changed her ways, but they soon find out she has been drinking, in rehab, and back to drinking. Her and her new boyfriend want to take Naomi away. In order to stop this, Gram and the neighbors pack up the trailer and head to find Naomi and Owen’s father in Mexico. While down there, Naomi carves a lion for La Noche de los Rabanos. Her father finally shows up and they have a very tearful reunion. He writes a letter to the judge that the kids should stay with Gram, and he also want to see them once a year at least. Once back in the U.S. they go to court and Gram wins custody of Naomi and Owen after Naomi gives testimony against her mother. Everything ends the same as the beginning, only differently.
H: This was a book that I did not look forward to reading. I just did not wish to read another novel, but I am glad that I read it. This is a wonderful piece of multicultural literature.
The author of this book seamlessly weaves two cultures together through the use of believable situations. Naomi’s father was from Mexico, actually the state of Oaxaca, in a town on the coast. She weaves in traditional aspects of the Mexican culture such as La Noche de los Rabanos wile keeping the story flowing and believable. This culture does not feel forced on the reader and flows naturally throughout the story. One custom that is explained very well is Las Posadas. This is a parade were towns people go from house to house looking for a place to stay, reenacting the trials of Mary and Joseph. We get a first hand account of how candles are lit, how they are tuned away then the families join everyone in the street, how the little boys get firecracker, and how they are finally let into a house and have a big celebration. This is a wonderful look into true Mexican culture.
The perspective of this book could almost be described as an outsider how is brought in and embraced. I feel that the Mexican society in this book accepts Naomi and Owen, the opposite of many Americans. This gives a firsthand account of this girl's struggles to find not only her Mexican father, but also her Mexican self. We get to see her grow in this culture; she learns some of the language and many of the traditions.
I felt like this story did have a few stereotypes in it. When someone thinks of white trash, I see someone who fits the description of Naomi’s mother to a tee. On the other hand I think it breaks a lot of Mexican stereotypes. Many people think that all Mexican looking people can speak Spanish, but even a woman living in Mexico did not speak Spanish she spoke zapotec. I also feel that some people think Mexicans are all poop and uncivilized and mean. This book shows that the Mexican culture is very accepting and kind. It also revels the wonderfully rich traditions. This book does a great job of breaking down many of the stereotypes people have about Hispanics.
I also loved the used of Spanish by the author. Naomi knows no Spanish, but quickly picks it up. The author offers us the real words and the translation, such as pan dulce (sweet breakfast bread) or la catedral (the church). This, I feel, is a valuable pert of the story and it add another dimension to this book. I feel that it is worked in seamlessly and without it the book would be nowhere as good.
I: This book will be a wonderful tool for the upper elementary classroom. I will use this book in the 5th grade when we start talking about and studying Mexico. This will be a great way to work into Mexican culture and will show the connection that many people have to other countries. I also just think that this book will be a great instrument in snuffing out stereotypes. It breaks down many racial and cultural barriers and this is something that will be very valuable for kids to read and experience.

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